Deerness Valley Railway Path – Winter Relay Walk

Dawn over Deerness Valley

On Sunday 13th December 2020, I was able to walk the Deerness Valley Railway Path from where I joined it in Ushaw Moor to the end at Crook, and back again.

The Deerness Valley Railway Path follows the disused railway line which ran originally from Crook into Durham City. The line was opened in 1858 and was used to transport coal from the mines in the valley. More information can be found here.

Early Start

I set of early for the walk along the Deerness Valley Railway Path as I wanted to get there and back and also still have some Sunday left to enjoy. I was on the path by 5:50am and started 5.8 miles from Crook, near the Deerness Valley Picnic Area.

Railway Path Signpost
My Starting point – Deerness View

The Initial walk was fine. It was quite cold and my breath steamed a lot making it hard to see through my head torches beam. Obviously I didn’t see anyone else. (Just the way I like it!)

I used walking poles pretty much the whole of this walk and the definitely made it easier. I could keep up a good cadence and also push into the group when the path was slippery for extra support. They also helped my daypack feel light too.

Equipment for the Deerness Valley Railway Path

The only things I brought on this walk was a flask of tea (classic), 1 litre of water, some peanut and chocolate bars, and a couple of porridge bars (basically flapjack). I also had: a first aid kit, a survival bag, a entrenching tool, some toilet roll, a map case and compass. This was a lot let then my expected kit list for a long hike.

I knew that there wouldn’t be any navigation needed as the path was 2 meters wide and gravel all of the way. I took it to help practice bearings and basic map skills.

Within an hour I reached the village of Waterhouses. It is a small village which straddles a main road. The path takes you behind the houses and past a small park.

Waterhouses at 6:40am
Waterhouses at 6:40am

After I left Waterhouses there wasn’t much to see, it being pitch black and all. After a few more miles I saw a figure in the distance walking towards me in the dark. I dimmed my headtorch and pointed it to the ground, but the gentleman still complained of it’s brightness. I hope I don’t turn into a cantankerous old git when I get old!

First Break on the Deerness Valley Railway Path

We parted ways and I walked on stopping for a cuppa in the darkness before dawn. I also spotted lots of shining eyes in the field across from the bench, sheep I hope! past Stanley Beck and the Stanley Beck open access woodland, a spot I had planned to use a wild camp, when this walk was going to be made over an afternoon and a morning (with a wild camp in-between).

I reached Stanley Crook just before dawn, and was able to look eastwards and see the red lights of Pontop Pike (I think?).

Dawn Arrived on the Deerness Valley Railway Path

I captured this cracker of the dawn from there before the fog made visibility poor.

Dawn breaking over the Deerness Valley.

After that the was a nice chance to stop for a brew a memorial bench after the carpark above Crook. As dawn came in the fog came in as well. I moved off from the bench and went down into Crook by about 8am. It was starting to get busy with dog walkers, and most of the dogs took interest in my walking poles unfortunately. I took a quick photo of the Crook end of the path and turned around to make the long slow ascent back up to Stanley Crook.

Crook Sign

Return Journey on the Deerness Valley Railway Path

Walking back from Crook to Ushaw Moor is mostly flat or down hill. By 9am I had returned to the Stanley Crook Beck woodland, and could see that the recent coppicing had left a lot of the coniferous trees around. I could literally smell the fatwood! Fat wood is found in the joints of tree limbs in pine trees when they settled, and is an excellent material to scrape off to make a sticky resin that acts as a tinder. I will definitely be back to harvest some!

Stanley Crook Beck woodland

After this it was a regular walk back along the line giving way to groups of cyclists and groups of walkers to enable me to get home. I did get some soreness in my right heel, but as of now (several days later) it hasn’t turned into a blister. I think I will need to layer my walking socks to give a bit more “give or slide” inside my boots.

The route back to Ushaw Moor was not remarkable and I tumbled into my home at a respectable 11:30am having covered around 12 miles in 6 hours.

Deerness View Sign
The end of the road for me

The End of the Deerness Valley Railway Path

Overall I felt really pleased that I had accomplished such a long walk with very few miles in my legs this year. It gave me a sense of peace of fulfilment that I have been missing recently. Here’s to many more and a return to The Durham Round!

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